"I knew the youthfulness of the sixties: Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakesh, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where the curtain of the past seemed to lift before an extraordinary future." – Yves Saint Laurent
Her life reads like a weathered page, torn out of a book of short stories, filled with beautiful people, expensive drugs, an expensive wardrobe and an unbelievable love story. As an inspiration to both designers and boho enthusiasts everywhere, the late Talitha Getty is truly an icon.
Talitha was born October 18th, 1940 in Indonesia, to artist Willem Jilts Pol and Arnoldine Adriana Mees. After a brief sentence in a Japanese prison camp during WWII, her parents split, so young Talitha and her mother moved to the United Kingdom. Shortly after, her mother died, and left eight year old Talitha to be raised by her father and stepmother, Poppet John (whose own parents, Augustus John and Dorothy McNeil, were respectively a Bohemian artist and revered fashion icon). Talitha went on to study dance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
A fellow dancer, one of Getty’s most famous admirers, Rudolph Nureyev, who had an intense yet brief fascination with her – he constantly told his closest confidantes that he desired to marry her. Yet, it was Nureyev’s absence at a dinner party that led Talitha to meet her real future husband: oil heir, John Paul Getty II.
Claus von Büllow, personal assistant to Getty’s father, had been planning an enormous dinner party, at which Nureyev has planned to dine next to Talitha, but was unable to attend. In his place sat John, who ended up hitting it off with Talitha. This explosive couple wound up marrying in 1966 (the bride donned a creamy velvet mink-trimmed hooded minidress, the groom, a psychedelic tie). Their nuptials lead to an even further dive into hedonism, hard drugs and partying.
The two shared a fabulous rooftop apartment in Rome, where they presumably had parties to match – crawling with the stunning models, bizarre artists, affluent socialites and unkempt rock stars of the 1960s, including Diane von Furstenberg, Valentino, fellow couple Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger, Yves Saint Laurent, and members of the Beatles.
In 1968, the pair gave birth to a son, the whimsically named Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy. After Tara’s birth however, Talitha began to act increasingly bizarre.
The Gerry’s separated briefly, and so she returned to London, where she experimented with several different lovers. She was even rumored to have given a dinner party in a pigsty near the Getty’s apartment in Rome – all while looking after her son.
Talitha Dina Getty died in Rome July 14th, 1971 from a heroin overdose. In the months before her death, she had been living with her son, but right before her death she managed to reconcile with her estranged husband. Recollections of the events that followed are varied – that he discovered her lying in a pool on their rooftop, that she returned to her husband a few days before, only to be whisked away to a clinic where she died, that he woke up and found her lifeless in their bed.
Despite being widely recognized as a spearhead of the lux-Bohemian look, images of her are notoriously hard to find. The most famous is an iconic shot of Getty, taken by Patrick Lichfield on their honeymoon. Talitha is shown posing on a rooftop in Marrakesh, wearing a beautiful multicolored caftan, harem pants and creamy, chunky heeled boots, with John watching on in the background.
Modern references to Talitha Getty’s trust-fund hippie style includes influences illustrated by Phoebe Philo’s work at Chloe, Dries van Noten, Marc Jacob’s work at Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford’s at Yves Saint Laurent.
Photos courtesy of The Fashion Spot forums.